2 Wilderness Row
TRACKLESHIRE TR2 4PN
March 25 1997
My Dear Austen
Thank you for your phone call yesterday evening child; it is some time since I have heard your bell-like tones chiming down the telephone cable. I do wonder, however, at the reason behind your communication – as it is unlike you to engage in any completely selfless activity. I think you may have been investigating my knowledge of your deceased father’s former contacts, with a view to securing personal advantage of some kind? But, as you should know by now dear, I was always a very different animal to Sir Charmer Tankful OBE – and had very little to do with his activities in the sphere of golf, bridge, drinking, hunting and womanizing (especially the latter). In fact, I developed quite my own, separate, group of friends and acquaintances – many of whom are quite indigent. I actually don’t quite know what I’m doing on this antiquated computer here at Wilderness Row and hope my musings will be legible in your home at Hyde Park Terrace?
Meanwhile, I have been making one or two discoveries about my new domain. One of my first surprises (not a very welcome one) was that the toilet facilities are situated some 20m beyond the back door near the end of the garden. I did investigate this shack at my earliest ‘convenience’ and, seated upon a rough plank in the near-dark, I could discern (from the actual stench, forgive me darling) and from the fact that my nether regions appeared to be nearly lapping upon the ‘waters’ beneath, that effluent must drop into a cess pit – and that this facility requires emptying. My other – rather mortifying – find has been that water (for all functions) has to be lifted from a water well, also situated in the back garden. This item has a waist high stone wall, arranged in the usual round, and a tiled roof from which the bucket is lowered, and raised, via a rope wound around a horizontal rail. One winds a handle dear, in order to accomplish all this bucket rising and falling. Gazing into the depths, I could initially only discern blackness and it was only by dint of dropping a half-red-brick over the side, that I could confirm that water was actually present at the bottom. Wild ginger seems to be the plant growing from the inside of the walls, near the apex, and its leaves are round and green and juicy. I must remember pet, to keep the wooden lid in place on this facility after use, as it might be rather depressing to lose Chumley into its interior and to have to winch him out in the bucket.
It was positively a relief to retire to my bed yesterday evening – at the somewhat early hour of 10pm – I can tell you. However, the bed at Wilderness Row does feel somewaht cramped compared to its king-sized counterpart back at Forsythia Grove. Chumley, Meribel and myself seemed to be practically reclining nostril to nostril and my nostrils were, in particular, stuffed with recumbent furry posteriors as we turned throughout the night. Sleep did not come easily as I could detect some strange sounds coming from the cottage next door. These took the form of heavy glass clankings and then, periodically, a thump as if something even heavier had collided with the floor. And I do believe I heard what might have been a burp!
In any event, dawn eventually came drilling through the window glass in the form of a continuous thumping sound. When I rose to investigate, I could clearly see – without the aid of binoculars – that a lesser-spotted woodpecker was fastened to the trunk of an apple tree outside and rapping its beak against the bark. I don’t know child. I suppose I should consider myself fortunate that it wasn’t a cockerel crowing at 4am or a row of heavy freight rail trucks rattling past. And also that I am still (miraculously) alive and able to enjoy a new day’s life – with its perennially attendant issues – at all!
Do give my love to Harriet won’t you? I have heard nothing from her in recent years and hope she has moved beyond that phase where she, too, appeared to be engaged in – hidden – heavy drinking, and the constant watching of day-time TV. I am not at all sure what lay behind this domestic behaviour child, and earnestly hope that your own attitudes and behaviour had nothing to do with it?